This is the talk JT Eberhard’s gave at the University of Arkansas last Friday.
I attended a faith healing service in Bella Vista, AR this weekend. I don’t know how relate this event in a funny or interesting way. Whenever I think about it, I’m left completely speechless. I even chickened out and didn’t confront anyone afterwards for conversation. I just wanted to get away from there.
I went with four friends from my atheist group. We tried our best to keep our heads down to avoid being kicked out. It seems this behavior was well advised, because I later found this in an article on the website of one of the hosts:
C) WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
1. Tactfully remove spectators – Just as there is power in agreement, the converse is true, that the healing power may not flow if there is no agreement in the spirit. So, if people around you lack faith in believing God for healing to take place for the sick person, tactfully ask them to stand aside or leave the room (Mk5v37-42, Mt13v58).
Of course, you don’t want any pesky skeptics in your audience. They make it harder for the crowd to maintain their shared delusion.
There were many testimonials given. One of the hosts claimed she was cured of paralysis and deafness in one ear when she first met her husband. He prayed over her and she was instantly healed. She was up and moving around within one day.
Here are some of the things we saw:
- A man was cured of blurry vision. After being “healed”, he claimed everything was now in focus. He left declaring, “I’ve gotta go test this out!”
- A healer blew in a man’s ear to cure his deafness. He claimed it was better.
- A lady was “cured” of her diabetes.
- Another lady was “cured” of an enlarged heart.
- A woman was supposedly cured of a broken arm. She did not have a cast. Her arm was in a sling fashioned out of what appeared to be a pillowcase. I assume this is because these kinds of people don’t visit doctors. The healer declared that the bones were “now snapping back into place”. She seemed very happy.
- Many people with headaches and pains in various places were prayed over. The healer would blow on their foreheads and they’d fall over backwards onto the floor. Someone behind them would catch them, and they’d get a blanket put on them.
Near the end, one of the women in our group got called to the front to be healed. The guy said that she didn’t know it, but one of her legs was shorter than the other. He did a trick wherein the legs appeared to grow out to the same length. He said if she had any back pain, it would be much better now. Another woman in our group then got called up, and they did the same trick on her arms.
James Randi explains how the “leg lengthening” trick works in this video. The explanation starts at 2:26.
Of course, the women hadn’t volunteered themselves. They got called out by the hosts. Did they just want us to not leave without having an “experience”? Did they think the women in our group would be more susceptible to being fooled?
Will the lady with Type II Diabetes now stop taking her insulin? Does the lady with an enlarged heart have medication that she’ll now stop taking? Do any of these people have children that don’t get taken to the doctor? I worry about the real-world effects of these beliefs.
One of the booklets passed out at the event, 100 Divine Healing Facts, says:
If it is not God’s will for you to be well, it would be wrong for you to seek recovery even through natural means.
If it is God’s will for you to be well, then it is only logical that the best way of recovery is by divine means.
In another section of the same book:
Asa died in his sickness because he sought not the Lord, but to the physicians; while Hezekiah lived because he sought not to the physicians but to the Lord.
In other words, going to the doctor is against God’s will.
From the website of one of the hosts:
D) WHY ARE ALL NOT HEALED
1. Lack of Faith – The disciples were unable to set the demon possessed boy free due to a lack of faith (Mt17v20).
2. Lack of Discernment.
3. Doubt and unbelief.
So, if you’re not healed, it’s your fault! You filthy sinner, you.
I just don’t know what to say. It’s fun to watch Benny Hinn on YouTube and laugh at people going crazy. But seeing people in my own town falling victim to this stuff is just really sad. It kinda makes it real, y’know?
I was recently asked by a Christian how I became an atheist. I wrote about my experiences with paganism last week, but I didn’t really explain how I fell away from it.
I used to be a believer. I was not a Christian, but I did believe in a great many supernatural things. I was 100% convinced that God and spirits existed. I spoke to them every day. At the time, if you told me they didn’t exist, I would have thought you were an intentionally closed minded person who would see the obvious if they just opened their eyes and looked around. I thought people didn’t see the truth because they didn’t want to.
There were a great many things that convinced me of God’s existence. I eventually found out there were flaws in the brain behind every single one of them. I learned that we can’t trust our own experiences, and I learned all the reasons why that is.
Losing your faith is not a quick process. It can take years. For me, it took 7 years. First, I learned how a certain experience I’d been having (astral projection) could actually be explained another way. At first, I wasn’t convinced I was wrong. However, the very idea I could be wrong at all disturbed me. I didn’t know what to think at first. Eventually, though, I accepted that the experience was not real.
I ended up having to have this realization many, many times over the years, because my faith was built on many, many experiences. One by one, throughout the years, the truth of my experiences fell away. There are only a limited number of flaws in the brain, but there are an infinite number of experiences you can have that can fall victim to them.
Now that I know my beliefs were not true, it pains me to see others going through similar experiences. When I was a believer, it was awesome. It was like I knew more than everybody else. But once you realize it’s not true, you wish you had known that all along so you wouldn’t have dedicated your entire life to it.
I feel like a fool for ever believing any of it.
I’m a little annoyed that the church members on the Grand Avenue Baptist Church forums said that I was obviously “searching” for something since I’m listening to sermons. Don’t they know I’m a militant atheist? I am not seeking to understand the mysterious. I am seeking to undermine their faith and improve the image of atheists. So, maybe I’ll be a little tougher this time, to justify my angry atheist stereotype.
Here is Jeff’s response to my first article:
There is never anything wrong with a spirited and civil dialogue. But I fear you might be guilty of missing my point. In no way was I trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the God of Christianity. I was merely attempting to prove beyond a “reasonable” doubt (the same standard as a court of law). Of course any one argument or group of arguments can be argued against and no analogy is ever fool proof. And thus becomes the role of faith in order to take the next step.
I’m not arguing for 100% certainty. I never said that. I don’t even think such a thing is possible. But I do expect that you have a reason for believing what you believe. 1 Peter 3:15, anyone?
So, you present a bunch of reasons why you’re not crazy. When I explain that what you said makes no sense, you backpedal and try to say the arguments you made aren’t that important. I don’t even know what “any one argument can be argued against” means. It’s either true or it’s not true. If I’m giving a nonsense rebuttal, I expect to be corrected. Are you really so cruel as to let me walk through life being wrong?
I made some points last time that you didn’t respond to. Are you unwilling to respond, or are you just considering my statements? Do you care whether your beliefs are true? Or do you believe in God because you want to and not because it’s “reasonable”? If it were reasonable, you would be able to defend your beliefs. Do you stand behind your arguments or not?
For the record, here is the definition of the word:
1. agreeable to reason or sound judgment; logical.
There is nothing in there about faith. It says, “reason”.
Now, on to the rest of the sermon!
The Intelligent Design Argument
Because the more we dig in to the science of our world, the more we are just stepping back and looking at it and going, “Wow, this could not have happened by accident.”
This is an argument from ignorance. Just because something is sooooo complicated that you can’t understand it, that doesn’t mean you get to make up an explanation for it. God is not the default answer to everything you don’t understand. You need a better argument than:
- Wow…. amazing!
- How does that work?
- I don’t understand how that came to be.
- God did it!
Is there something wrong with just admitting you don’t know how something works? Do you really need to make up an answer?
Let’s say that you’re walking in the desert. There’s nothing but sand everywhere you look, and you run across a 2012 year old Cadillac in the middle of the desert. Is your first reaction, “Whoooaah! Evolution!”? I mean, is that what you think? Or, does the presence of a vehicle sitting in the middle of the desert, does that not just scream that somebody put it there? And beyond that, somebody designed it.
We know Cadillacs were designed because we can go to the factories and see them being built. We can talk to the designers. They can explain how they did it. The same things are not true of the universe. So, no, it isn’t the same thing at all. Until I’m able to walk into a universe factory, this argument makes no sense.
And I gotta tell ya, this world is far more complex than a Cadillac. Far more complex. We just somehow believe that given enough time, that the sands of the universe will produce this. And we’re okay with that? We think that’s reasonable? And it’s unreasonable believe in a God?
Again, the fact that we’re incredulous at the amazingness of the universe isn’t any reason to think a supernatural being designed it. It just speaks to our own ignorance. To believe in something, you need a reason. Ignorance is not a good reason.
The human genome is the longest word to ever exist. But every letter has to be in the right place or it doesn’t mean anything. And when you look at that word, you think to yourself, “This doesn’t just happen, because words don’t just happen by themselves.” Words are the product of intelligence. There has to be a God. There has to be!
It’s not a word, it’s code. Language is for communication. DNA is a set of instructions. Anyway, you need to prove that, “DNA doesn’t just happen by itself”. That’s an assertion that you can’t back up. You can’t prove it.
Listen, Christian, it is reasonable to believe in a God! You’re not crazy if you say you believe in God. You’re not nuts or out to lunch or unreasonable. It’s actually a quite reasonable thing to believe in a God.
Keep telling yourself, that, buddy. If your church-members keep repeating it to themselves, they might start believing it, too.
The Koran vs. the Bible
The Koran was written in the year 600-ish A.D. […] So, when you think about the Koran, just very objectively, you’ve got a book that’s about 1400 years old. I gotta tell ya, that’s not ancient history. That’s history, but that’s not ancient.
Let’s compare that to the bible. The bible had been completely written before the Koran was even thought of. The bible spans history all the way back about 6,000 years.
Who cares how old it is? Age has nothing to do with accuracy. One year is just as good as any other for writing supernatural books. You’re committing a logical fallacy here. You’re saying the bible is right because it’s old. Just because an idea has stuck around for a long time doesn’t make it right. Long ago, people used to think frogs were created out of mud and water. They weren’t right.
I don’t mean to be trite by comparing the bible to frogs. I’m just saying we should decide the truth of an idea based on its merits, not its age.
And the bible was not written down by one man. The bible was written down by multiple authors over a couple thousand years. And here’s what amazing: In the midst of all of that, the antiquity of the book, there’s amazing continuity. It’s almost as if the whole project was overseen by one editor.
You know, multiple people can be wrong. There’s such a thing as shared mythology. Just take a look at snopes.com. It’s very easy for a good story to spread around like wildfire, even if it’s also false.
As far as the continuity being “amazing”, a simple google search shows this to be very wrong.
There are many contradictions in the bible. Could this be because a bunch of different people who didn’t know each other wrote it? I’d say so.
I’ll never forget standing in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast in Israel, and I was looking at a stone relief that had the name “Pontius Pilate” on it. Pontius Pilate, from the bible, referred to as living in Jerusalem. And there is an archeological artifact with his name on it! And this kind of thing happens all the time when it comes to the bible. There is nothing related to the bible that has been disproven archeologically, historically. It continues to hold up to the best of scrutiny.
- Spiderman lives in New York.
- New York is a real place.
- Spiderman is real!
- The 9/11 conspiracy theory refers to George W. Bush.
- George W. Bush is a real person.
- The 9/11 conspiracy theories are real!
My point is: historical characters and real places being in the bible don’t make the supernatural claims true.
Prophecies and Punishment by Proxy
Listen, it’s a prophetic book. It predicts the future. And to date, it has been 100% accurate. Not 99% accurate, 100% accurate!
Please cite a few. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. I hope we’re talking specific predictions, and not vague things that could be interpreted to mean anything.
But when you really study the word of God, and you understand God and his holiness, and you understand Man’s sinfulness, and you understand that there’s a gap, then you understand that there’s got to be something done to close the gap. And the only way that could happen was for God to intervene himself. You see, the fact that the Messiah suffered is proof that he was human. He had to become like us. Experience humanity. The fact that he died is necessary because there has to be a sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. It’s the most basic old testament concept of forgiveness. And then here’s the thing: The messiah had to come back to life to prove he was God. It’s so reasonable in God’s economy.
Let me tell you what I believe. I believe people are responsible for their own actions. Evolution shows that Adam and Eve couldn’t have existed. But if they did, I am not responsible for their actions. I reject that notion as immoral. People should accept ownership of their own misdeeds, and your religion undermines this idea.
However, even accepting original sin (which I don’t), Jesus dying on the cross is not the only way it could have been resolved. God is omnipotent, remember? Why could he not just forgive Man’s sins?
Wouldn’t the absurdity of this claim have been just remarkably easy for the Roman government to disprove if they could?
Or maybe their mysterious silence on the matter is more indicative of the fact that it never happened!
I guess the question I have for you today is this: Are you persuaded?
No, I’m not.
Ok folks, it’s time for another sermon review. This one is from Jeff Crawford at Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I love this guy. He’s friendly, writes well, and is an excellent speaker. He was even nice enough to give me a gift: A sermon on apologetics. Dude, you shouldn’t have!
Here we go:
As we as a church, as a people of God, endeavor to move out from the walls of our churches and to actually reach a lost and dying world, there are going to be people who will rise up and will think that we are crazy. Crazy! How could anybody believe what we believe? How could a reasonable person really believe in God?
One thing I learned coming out of religion is that people’s expectations strongly drive what they see. We conveniently ignore things that don’t fit our expectations, and we inflate the importance of things that seem to fit our worldview. That’s why the scientific method is so important to science; it prevents your opinions from coloring the results.
Throughout this sermon, Jeff constantly reminds the audience that atheists think Christians are crazy. He then quickly assures them that they are actually very reasonable. This colors the audience’s view of the arguments given in the sermon. They are expected to be indignant. “Pshaw! How dare anyone think I’m crazy?”
This is made worse by the fact that of the arguments stated, none of the common refutations are even mentioned. It is simply stated that atheists think Christians are crazy, and that’s that. People are led to believe that atheists think Christians are crazy for no reason at all other than sheer incredulity. Many famous atheists are quoted, of course. But somehow, Pastor Jeff could only manage to find the offensive quotes from them. You’d think, with all the effort it took to find those quotes, that maybe he might have stumbled past the refutations to the arguments he was giving.
Nope. Refutations to our arguments don’t matter. Christians are only interested in hearing things that reinforce views they already hold.
The Cosmological Argument
After going on about postmodernism and relativism for a while, he finally hits on the Cosmological argument. For those who don’t know, it goes like this:
- Everything that exists must have a cause.
- If you follow the chain of events backwards through time, it cannot go back infinitely, so eventually you arrive at the first cause.
- This cause must, itself, be uncaused.
- But nothing can exist without a cause, except for God.
- Therefore, God exists.
Of this argument, he says:
And somewhere back there, you gotta have a first. And somewhere back there, you just get to the point where you realize that there has to be, there just has to be something, someone that is outside of everything that just started it all. And it’s God.
And that’s not crazy. That’s just kinda really common sense.
The way you say there has to be a first cause, with such fervor and excitement, it makes me think what you really mean is that you want there to be a first cause. You’re letting your own desires color your view of the evidence. I have yet to hear a single reason why the chain of causation can’t have existed forever. It’s simply stated as fact with no supporting evidence. Why does there have to be a first cause?
Of course, the most common response to this argument is, “Who created God? Where did this God come from? Who created him? Was it another God? If not, then why is God able to be uncaused, but the universe isn’t?” When you say the universe must have a cause, but God doesn’t need one, that’s Special Pleading. Everything must have a cause, except for our God, who has a special exemption.
Also, what makes you think the first cause has to be a God? Maybe it was some sort of special, unintelligent particle. The qualities you’re ascribing to this “first cause” are assumptions that haven’t been justified.
Even though the issues I’m raising with this argument are very commonly known, they aren’t mentioned at all in the sermon. It’s just implied that the atheists’ only response is that the Cosmological argument is “crazy”.
The Moral Argument
The next argument he brings up is the Moral Argument. It says that because people inherently know the difference between right and wrong, that means God must exist. Let’s just step through an example on this one:
People enjoy being alive. They also enjoy the company of their friends and family. Murder causes immense suffering and pain to victim’s loved ones. Since death can’t be undone, it should be chosen very sparingly lest these consequences occur. I don’t want to live in a society where anyone could kill me for any reason. In order for me to ensure others don’t hurt me, I have to agree to not hurt others. It’s part of the contract of living in a civil society. I also care about the well-being of others. I don’t want to see them suffer.
Was that so hard? Maybe people “inherently know” the difference between right and wrong because it’s stupefyingly obvious. I don’t really get why you need to have a supernatural deity to explain it.
Ultimately, though, this comes down to an Argument From Ignorance. Because you don’t personally understand where morals could have come from, you assume God exists. The problem is, that’s a positive assertion which requires evidence. A lack of understanding can’t be used as evidence to support a proposition.
At the end of this, he says:
It’s a pretty complex argument, but that’s the gist of it.
I don’t understand why people keep saying this. No. No, it’s not that complicated. Most of the time, people overthink it.
Man, this stuff takes a long time to write about. I’ll finish up the rest in Part 2. Coming up: Intelligent Design and why the Bible is soooo much better than the Koran.
According to Fox News, a school in North Carolina has been questioned for distributing bibles to its students:
The Gideons International had delivered several boxes of the sacred books to the school office. The staff allowed interested students to stop by and pick them up.
So, what’s the big deal, man? They’re just bibles! Maybe those people should just GET OVER IT!
Ginger Strivelli, who practices Witchcraft, a form of Paganism, said she was upset when her 12-year-old son [who did not wish to be photographed for this article] came home from North Windy Ridge intermediate school with a Bible.
According to Strivelli, the principal assured her the school would make available religious texts donated by any group. But when Strivelli showed up at the school with pagan spell books, she was turned away.
Oh… Well, those religions don’t count! We only want Christianity promoted by the school! I do not want the rights granted to MY religion granted to other people’s religion! If other people get the same rights as me, then that’s not fair!! Special rights for me and no one else!!
Is the first amendment starting to make sense to anyone now? Shouldn’t it be clear to everyone that Pagans deserve the same rights as Christians? Or are they to be considered second-class citizens because of their beliefs?
[via Ken Ham, whose nonsensical drivel isn’t even worth responding to.]